Thomas Jefferson Papers

William Tudor to Thomas Jefferson, 13 January 1819

From William Tudor

Boston Jany 13h 1819.


If the motive of this letter does not serve for my excuse with you, I have no other that I can offer for this intrusion—I have been for some months past endeavoring to collect materials for the life of James Otis who held so distinguished a place among the actors in the preparatory scenes of our immortal revolution. As my attention to his character was more particularly drawn by the letters of President Adams to my father, some of which have been published, I need hardly say that I did not undertake the task till I had been encouraged by his kind approbation. There are very few vestiges of him remaining except in printed documents; for in an unhappy period of mental alienation, he destroyed every paper in his possession; and his career was so prematurely arrested by this deplorable misfortune, that none of the cotemporaries of his intellectual powers now exist, except President Adams. It is therefore very difficult to find any letters of his writing. I wish very much to obtain copies of whole or extracts of letters that he may have written. It occurred to me that you might perhaps have received letters from him, or that you may have known some gentlemen from Virginia or the neighboring States who knew him and were in the habit of corresponding with him, and from whose families some documents of this kind might be obtained. Should this be the case, I hope I am not indiscreet in asking your good will to aid me in procuring them. I would leave nothing undone that depends upon me to do justice to this great patriot, and I know all your interests and sympathies must induce you to regard such undertakings with complacency. I beg you to accept my wishes for the prolongation of your health and happiness, and the assurance of my very high respect.

W. Tudor jr

RC (MHi); at foot of both first page and text: “President Jefferson Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Jan. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

William Tudor (1779–1830), author and public official, was born in Boston, studied at Phillips Academy in Andover, and graduated from Harvard University in 1796. He then embarked on a career in trade, sailing on business to Paris and Leghorn and subsequently to the West Indies on behalf of his brother Frederic Tudor. With his mother, Delia Jarvis Tudor, in August 1801 Tudor visited TJ at Monticello. He represented Boston for four one-year terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1810–11 and 1815–18, but his parents failed in attempts to place him in government positions at Marseille and London. Active in scholarly circles in Boston, Tudor was a founder of the Boston Athenæum in 1807, started the North American Review in 1815, joined the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1816, and published a biography of James Otis in 1823. President James Monroe appointed him United States consul at Lima in 1823. Four years later John Quincy Adams named him chargé d’affaires at Rio de Janeiro, where he died (DAB; Harvard Catalogue description begins Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1925, 1925 description ends , 180; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 41 vols. description ends , 34:674, 35:94; DNA: RG 59, LAR, 1801–17; Massachusetts Register and United States Calendar [1811]: 18; [1816]: 17; [1817]: 17; [1818]: 17; Tudor, Letters on the Eastern States [New York, 1820], Miscellanies [Boston, 1821], and The Life of James Otis, of Massachusetts [Boston, 1823; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 5 (no. 148)]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:343–4, 579, 583 [8, 9 Dec. 1823, 24, 27 Dec. 1827]; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 11 May, 10 July 1830).

Recently published letters of president John Adams to William Tudor (1750–1819) included one of 25 Feb. 1818 in which Adams stated that “I have been young and now I am old, and I solemnly say, I have never known a man whose love of his country was more ardent or sincere; never one, who suffered so much; never one whose services for any ten years of his life, were so important and essential to the cause of his country, as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770” (Baltimore Niles’ Weekly Register, 11 July 1818; also quoted in Tudor, Life of James Otis, xviii). Adams expressed his approbation of the younger Tudor’s proposal to write a life of Otis in a letter to him dated 28 Aug. 1818 (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; correspondence of published search
  • Adams, John; opinion of sought search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Tudor, Delia J. search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Tudor, William (1779–1830) search
  • Otis, James; correspondence of search
  • Otis, James; The Life of James Otis, of Massachusetts (W. Tudor) search
  • The Life of James Otis, of Massachusetts (W. Tudor) search
  • Tudor, Delia Jarvis; visits Monticello search
  • Tudor, William (1750–1819); correspondence of search
  • Tudor, William (1779–1830); identified search
  • Tudor, William (1779–1830); letter from search
  • Tudor, William (1779–1830); The Life of James Otis, of Massachusetts search
  • Tudor, William (1779–1830); visits Monticello search